Opinion: The gulf of generations

A look back at the first Trans Mountain pipe line gives an interesting perspective on changing attitudes.

Oh, how times have changed.

It was just over 60 years ago that work on the Trans Mountain oil pipeline through Chilliwack was nearing completion.

It had been the subject of some discussion in the pages of the Chilliwack Progress as the company sought a Pacific outlet for the oil boom just beginning to build in Alberta.

But the project was far from controversial. Farmers sat down with company officials and negotiated easements, talked about mitigation, and jousted over compensation.

By May 6, 1953 the excitement was almost palpable. “Oil to flow by September,’ read a front page story in The Progress.

The project had an estimated price tag of $97 million and would bring local employment to about 150 men. It would initially deliver 150,000 barrels of crude a day to the tank farm under construction in Burnaby. With the completion of additional pumping stations, that flow would increase to 300,000 barrels a day.

For company vice-president H. H. Anderson, construction carried an almost mythical nuance.

“There are few industrial endeavors which have captured the public’s imagination like this pipeline project,” he told The Progress.

“It has the same audacious aspects as the building of a trans-Canada railroad.”

Fast forward to 2014 and that romanticism seems hard to find.

As protests become increasingly confrontational, most of the employment is going to security officials. (It’s estimated that RCMP costs on Burnaby Mountain are around $100,000 a day.)

To be clear, construction hasn’t even started yet. What Trans Mountain is doing on Burnaby Mountain is seeing if its plan to drill through the mountain is more feasible than following its existing right-of-way through the city’s neighbourhoods.

But the battle lines are drawn. And they mark more than the difference between the two sides.

They demonstrate the gulf between the world view of the 1950s and the attitudes felt by a growingly militant population today.